The holiday season is definitely a fun time for children—from 2 to 92 years of age; however for people who enjoy buying and giving gifts, it can be problematic. Depending on what part of the world you are, if you live in a cosmopolitan country, the Internet has given this generation tools we never dreamed possible. Atlases are now on computers; dictionaries are now a one-click phenomenon, and travel and migration has made such terms as distant places obsolete.For persons who do not have time to balance their petty cash accounts because of the size, gift selection can be part and parcel of the duties of a private secretary. In fact, most private secretaries score very big brownie points based on their ability to select and match types of gifts to the tastes and dictates of their bosses. So that is easy.Years ago, pretty faces and slender bodylines were all it took to land a big rich fish: not today. Your knowledge of art, fine silk, appreciation for the opera, and your ability to select excellent gifts are prime pre-requisites for rich bachelors to pop the elusive question: “Will you marry me?” I used to own a nightclub-O.K? The rich and famous not only visited, but spoke freely after a few well-mixed drinks. In fact, I have made quite a name for myself as a matchmaker. I am very proud of the fact that every match I made is still doing exceptionally well after 20 years.Having spent most winters in one of the towns where I owned international nightclubs, where top international artists not only performed, but hung out as well, my hosting “Ladies Only Night’ and “Men Only Night’ paid healthy social dividends. The problem is that all of their children, having heard how I introduced daddy and mommy, in all cases, people from different and exciting cultures, are now adopted siblings: so you can understand why I have so many cultural seeds on my gift lists. I have Chinese, Arabic, Jewish, Italian, British, Indian, Pakistani and African children calling me uncle–mainly out of respect. These are children who gravitate to me-naturally. They look up to me as a farther figure and as a frequent visitor to their schools, those that live in my neighborhood have linked with my natural offspring, and I am their “Uncle Bas.” I love it.Choices for the children get more complicated every year since the electronic world re-invents itself so often that yesterday’s wonder ducklings are today’s dinosaurs. I solve problems by ordering large boxes and batches of Swiss chocolates. Since those range in prices from $12.00 to $120.00, one box can cover a large cross-section of any community.
IF YOU TRAVEL TO ASIA, BUY SILK AND TECHI STUFF.Whenever I travel to Asia, I buy the latest techi-gadgets. I have found the marketing trend goes like this: Asia first; Europe second and America third. If you happen to travel to Asia, buy techi stuff and silk. Silk and electronic storage drives take up minimal space. So, buy pearls, silk and electronic storage devices. Those things are expensive in America and the U.K, but not at all expensive in Asia. Whatever you pay for any one of those items, you can buy six gifts of the same type in Thailand, Hong Kong or most Asian destinations. Silk ties are comparatively inexpensive.IF YOU TRAVEL TO THE CARIBBEAN, BUY RUM ART AND PERFUMES.Most people take winter Caribbean vacations. The discount deals from hotels and Cruise ships start before December 15th and after March 15th. The Caribbean has excellent, lively, unique, and relatively inexpensive art. Places like Antigua and Jamaica have good and inexpensive rum. There is a rum commissioned to celebrate the annual Antigua Sailing Week Regatta called “English Harbour Rum”–excellent choice. Give that to your boss; if he or she takes a swig or two, and a financial raise is guaranteed.In Antigua and Dominica, the local people artistically design and prepare packages of spices. Those make excellent and unique gifts. Some islands are known for their commemorative Tee shirts. St. Lucia Jazz Festival; Antigua Sailing Week Regatta, and Sanford 20/20 Cricket tournament–all of those you can look up on the Internet. Not only are the Tee Shirts excellently designed, are of first class quality, but many are collectors’ items as well. They are reasonably priced and make excellent gifts. Table mats made from natural materials: jute or woven coconut Palm, and embroidered mats also make excellent gifts. For the best duty-free prices on perfumes: Antigua and Trinidad are tops, worldwide.Go online and look up the high-end Caribbean tourist destinations: look at their shops and the types of things they sell. Islands such as St, Maarten and Antigua which get thousands of cruise ship visitors per month, those duty free shops have large island warehouses; prices are excellent because they bulk order name brand watches, the finest jewelry, and perfumes. For the ladies: if you are not allergic to shopping, like my wife, my sisters and all of my sisters in law, you must visit the Caribbean.Antigua is known for some hilarious beach vendors who ply their trade at the hotel beaches. Since the beaches are owned collectively by the islanders, under arrangements with the hotel owners the lady vendors custom-design lovely sea island cotton dresses and wraps (very reasonably priced) and model them for you and your spouses. The vendors also provide baby-sitting services. Many top Fortune 500 C.E.O’s call them mommy because as kids those same vendor ladies took care of them. They return every year and during the off-season the vendors travel to visit “their sons and daughters” as they call them. The men who sell on the beaches in Antigua are also well read and very artistic. They make beautiful hats and baskets out of coconut palms-weaving them right in front of you. The lady vendors will braid the ladies’ hair in one quarter of the time it takes to get it done in the U.S and England and it costs a fraction of the price. The ladies are not shy about sharing a little gossip and giving tips about “cocktails that prolong men’s desire”-a favourite topic that generates much laughter on the beaches daily. The men will engage you in talk about sports. They are avid golf, basketball, cricket and soccer fans. One of the things that distinguishes the Antigua Tourism Product from other destinations is the rapport that guests enjoy with the local population.IF YOU TRAVEL TO EUROPE:Spain has excellent and inexpensive pottery. Buy from the rural areas. Everyone in Barcelona imports them from the rural vendors. If you go to Toledo or Cordoba, look out for roadside vendors. They make and sell lovely and unique glazed vases and cups.If you go to Venice, the Morano Glass factory is a must. Just call them and tell them where you are staying in Venice and they will send a limousine (a velvet-lined speed boat) for you.Switzerland: take a train ride to a factory where they make and shape glass bowls and containers by blowing them the old fashioned way. Around Lucerne there are still a few. Swiss chocolates make excellent gifts for the young and old. The famous Swiss army knife must be placed in your checked in luggage -if you live outside Europe.Italy is still the fashion capital for designer bags and shoes, according to 10 of the world’s most expert shoppers: my wife, my sisters in law and my sisters. Take it from me. My sisters were trained by an aunt who owns a few stores and since they were tots, she used to take them to visit the merchandisers’ showrooms. According to the experts, France has it all, but the reputation and the prices match very well.
Israel: what a choice of gifts. If you go to Israel, the choices are endless. I would love to see how they make the decorated glass goblets-those where the different colours of glass seem to drip from inside the glass itself.Dubai: If you are in that category, let your secretary pick the items. I have found that Dubai has excellent gold prices.Nigeria and South Africa: Custom order all your leather sandals and hand-made leather belts. One day is all it takes to place and receive your orders. In South Africa you can get the greatest supply of packaged spices in well-designed bottles: they make excellent gifts. Custom order your dresses and shirts: the silks, linens, scarves–my goodness. Most people do not realize this: Africa makes some of the best beauty soaps. If you love your face make sure you buy soaps from Africa. Now you know why African women have such beautiful and radiant skin. The natural ingredients in their soap and cosmetics not only cleanse the skin, but holds it firmly as well.Australia: aboriginal art scarves and paintings are choice gifts. Do not buy your opal in souvenir shops in main cities. Go on a tour to an opal factory first. There are opals and many opal-look-alikes. Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware.India: The first unusual silk scarf you see, negotiate for half dozen and no more. The reason, as you go on tours you will keep seeing nicer and better-designed scarves. India has lots of wonderful spices. Make sure you buy them in packaged containers and put them in your check in luggage.MAJOR STORES ADVANTAGES:If you are in a metropolis that imports everything and your choices are limited to what the stores put out every year then the advantages are:1. the ability to order over the Internet.2. Many of them will ship merchandise for you.3. What you see on their store catalogue over the Internet is basically the same as what they sell: in other words, their store catalogues are of excellent quality.4. Convenience.5. If the recipient does not like the item, he/she can return and exchange them for something else–in most stores.